What are clipless pedals?
Clipless pedals are pedals into which you ‘clip in’ with special cycling shoes which have a ‘cleat’ fixed to the sole. You remove your shoe from the pedal by twisting your foot and clip in by pushing down and forward into the pedal.
If you ride with normal pedals, you probably wonder why people would make the transition to ones where you have to clip in. Can it really make that much difference? The answer is: yes, it really does change the experience of cycling. You will be able to use the power you generate up to 30% more efficiently. That means having to work less hard to go as fast as you are already going. Because you are pulling on the upstroke as well as pushing, you are not wasting any of that precious power your legs are working hard to produce! It also improves your cadence. Cadence is the number of revolutions of the crank per minute. Clipless pedals help you keep constant pressure throughout the entire revolution, adding to a smoother pedal stroke.
Cycling shoes also have a much stiffer sole than normal shoes which, again, helps with efficiency. Flex in your shoes results in even more power loss, so it’s not just about the pedals, it’s also about the shoes.
Which pedals and shoes shall I get?
For road riding
For mountain biking
Another important factor to consider is whether you will need to walk in the shoes once you are off the bike. Road shoes are not good for this! If you are commuting, you should be looking for a sole that is designed for walking; one that has good grip and a little bit of flex. If you are racing, you are interested in power transfer above all else, so you should go for the stiffest sole you can find, which will be made of carbon. If you are interested in adventure riding (where there will be times you will be off the bike, walking up rocks or anywhere you can’t ride your bike), you’ll need a flexible sole with a good grip and a protected toe.
Double-sided SPD pedals are good for commuting because you can clip in both sides so you don’t need to flick the pedal over with your foot in order to clip in. This is good for when you are stopping and starting frequently at traffic lights. If you are going on long road rides, however, a road pedal and shoe system would be better because you will not need to clip in and out nearly so often. The cleat and pedal system is designed so that the pressure on your foot is spread over a larger area so it is better for putting in the hours on the road.
Cycling shoes and pedals are also great for getting the most out of your spinning class. When you clip in, you engage more of the important muscles needed to power the bike.
If you have never used clipless pedals before, we recommend using multi-release cleats first, which means that if you don’t clip out in time for coming to a stop, you can pull your foot out of the pedal in any direction. Once you have mastered these, switch to single release cleats, which will restrict the amount your foot can move in the pedal, so less wasted energy!
If you are nervous about making the switch to clipless pedals, give us a call and arrange a time to come in and try them on the turbo trainer. It’s a great way to get a feel for how to clip in and out. We can fit your new pedals and cleats for you and take you through everything you need to know, such as when to replace your cleats. We recommend Bontrager shoes and Shimano pedals and cleats.